If the PKK obeys what the US says in Syria...

If the PKK obeys what the US says in Syria...

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım vowed on Aug. 26 that Turkey is now in an “all-out war” against terrorism. 

That came after two recent acts of terror by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). On Aug. 25, the PKK attacked the motorcade of social democratic main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in northeast Turkey. Kılıçdaroğlu survived the attack, which was claimed by the PKK, which also claimed in the most unconvincing manner that their attack using a rocket launcher had not aimed at the CHP leader but rather his security team. 

The next morning on Aug. 26, the PKK also carried out a suicide attack with a truckload of explosives near a police building in Cizre, southeast Turkey, near the borders with Iraq and Syria, killing 11 and wounding 70 people. 

As the PKK keeps striking bloody blows on Turkey, escalating its level of terror, the PKK’s Syrian branch was given a cold shower by the U.S., which is has been working with for some time against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The deal between the U.S. and NATO ally Turkey was that the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the militia of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian sister of the PKK, should return east of the Euphrates River after taking part in the operation by the U.S.-led coalition to take the town of Manbij from ISIL. 

Turkey had formerly objected to the idea of cooperating with the YPG, saying it was no different than the PKK and had the aim of forming a Kurdish-controlled corridor along the Turkish-Syrian border. A phone call from U.S. President Barack Obama to Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan changed that. After getting promises from the U.S. that the PYD forces would withdraw east of the Euphrates after the operation, Turkey agreed to cooperate.

Right after Manbij was taken from ISIL on Aug. 12, Turkey asked the U.S. to keep its promise. The Pentagon said it would but just needed some time. However, when Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) told the prime minister and president that the YPG units were instead advancing to the town of Jarablus near the Turkish border, Ankara decided to act on a plan already agreed on with the U.S., launching an operation to protect and support the rebel Free Syria Army (FSA) militia to take Jarablus from ISIL. They did it on the same day, Aug. 24.

Also on that day U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was scheduled to arrive in Ankara in a belated visit after the failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15. After meeting Erdoğan and Yıldırım, Biden said all PYD groups should return east of the Euphrates, otherwise they would not be given any protection. PYD chairman Salih Muslim had already said vowed that Turkey would be defeated, and the next morning the PYD said it would not withdraw. But in the meantime U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had phoned Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and said the PYD would do so. It took another statement - by the Pentagon this time - to observe that the PYD withdrawal has started. 

But not all of the PYD’s forces were withdrawing. A PYD group continued heading toward Jarablus. Turkish long-range artillery shelled them to stop their advance and there was no U.S. protection, as promised by Biden. The next morning ,the PKK once again hit Turkey.

There are two important results from Biden’s visit to Turkey:

1- No, the U.S. will not let the PYD/PKK abuse the fight against ISIL to establish a Kurdish territory in Syria.

2- The U.S.’s stance regarding Turkey has changed since Ankara changed its Syria policy to prioritize a shift in focus from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to ISIL.

It seems the U.S. and Turkey are now much closer to each other on Syrian policy. That could speed up the fight against ISIL, given the fact that Turkey is now on better terms with Russia and Iran than it was a few months ago.

All this is good, but it brings to mind another question: If the Syrian branch of the PKK obeys what the U.S. says to them in Syria, could that help the PKK lay down arms and return to dialogue with the Turkish government for a political settlement? Just a question...